Saturday, March 15, 2014


Put Up Or Shut Up
Davis Calls To Fix Schools From Surplus

This week the Kansas Legislature and education policymakers grappled with the Kansas Supreme Court's school finance ruling that ordered the state to find $129 million to resolve inequities between rich and poor school districts. Yet one person was conspicuously missing - Governor Sam Brownback, who was nowhere to be found.
Morning JoeThat is unless you turned on FoxNews.
Brownback could be found on Morning Joe and Fox & Friends promoting his rebuilt Kansas. He even had time to swing by the Franklin Center and give a talk during The New York Meeting. If Brownback has the time to do an East Coast media tour in the middle of session, Kansas must be humming along smoothly.
And to hear Brownback tell it all is well in Kansas. Brownback promoted his "record revenues" and the $500 million-plus surplus he's created as governor. He touted his tax policy and how it was helping create jobs in Kansas.
So taking Brownback at his word (a risky decision, we know) Rep. Paul Davis did the sensible thing and called on Sam Brownback and his Kansas Legislature to do their jobs and fix their unconstitutional school funding from our $500 million-plus surplus.
“Our children can never reclaim the opportunities they were denied as a result of state budget cuts, but we can act now and set things right. After years of waiting for Gov. Brownback to properly fund schools, Kansas kids deserve action.” - Paul Davis

Our Kansas kids do deserve action. It's the moral thing to do to return this funding and guarantee all Kansas kids, rich or poor, have a quality education. It's also the smart thing to do because failing to act may have serious consequences.
Based upon the Court's ruling, Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis estimates that districts could lose as much as $1 billion statewide if lawmakers fail to fix equity issues. "A billion dollars would be devastating," Dennis said.
But don't worry, if Brownback's claims of a surging Kansas with a record surplus are true, we've got the money. Complying with the Court will be a no-brainer for him and his fellow far-right Republicans.
Well, no-brainer is half right.
Here's what Brownback's far-right allies have to say about complying with the court's order:
Rep. Kyle Hoffman of Coldwater, said tapping cash reserves for the full cost is "not going to be the solution."
Speaker Ray Merrick: “I don’t know if new funds need to be added, or if there’s funds already in the system that can be used.”
Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican: "It's not likely that we just whip out the checkbook and write a check off of the taxpayers' account."
Gov. Sam Brownback in response to whether he supports complying with the $129 million court order: "That's going to be one that needs to be discussed in the Legislature."
Which begs the question: if our economy is so strong, we have a $500 million-plus surplus, and Kansas is taking in record revenues, why are Brownback and his handpicked legislators still refusing to prove they support education by putting up the cash?
Reason #1: the surplus Brownback crows about so frequently (here, here, and here) exists in part because of cuts he made to education. In 2011, Brownback signed the single largest education cut in Kansas's history - and then called it a victory. The size of the cut - over $100 million. Awfully close to the amount the Kansas Supreme Court just ordered Brownback and the Kansas Legislature to put back into schools. It's not likely Brownback will simply return the money he took from schools.
Reason #2: any money that goes back into schools is money that can't be used to finance his $3.9 billion tax plan that handed out corporate loopholes and giant tax breaks to billionaires and special interests. And as Brownback keeps claiming, Kansas needs this tax plan to grow.

Reason #3: Brownback helped elect far-right legislators who can charitably be referred to as anti-education. These legislators have spent the entire 2014 session resisting Sam Brownback's request for $16 million for all-day K. They've also cut $2 million in funding from KU for public-private partnerships and refused to release funds to the KU Medical School that would go to build new training facilities that could help ease Kansas's doctor shortage and ensure KU Med's continued accreditation. These legislators may listen to Brownback, but it won't be easy. That's why now is the time for Brownback to assert leadership.
Instead, Brownback has taken a page from President Obama's strategic playbook and dumped the whole problem on the legislature. Talking with reporters, Brownback said that "his administration isn't giving legislators any advice about how to address aid to poor districts other than, 'Let's fix it.'" Granted, Brownback had three years to fix the problem he created and with a self-proclaimed surplus that would easily cover the $129 million, but no, this is now on the Legislature.
Brownback would do well to follow Paul Davis's advice: be a leader and start thinking about the Kansans his actions have hurt.
"Think about those kids who started school when the recession began. They are now halfway through their K-12 years and have endured nothing but budget cuts. We can’t wait for the court. We have to solve this problem and we have to solve it now.” - Paul Davis
For Kansas' sake and our kids' sake, we hope Gov. Sam Brownback heeds these words of advice and puts up the money he took from education to build his surplus. If he doesn't, he can shut up about supporting Kansas schools.

In Other News

Dire consequences if Legislature fails to act on school finance, official warns

Kansas school funding fight far from over

Kansas Democrats’ election strategy is about wooing moderate Republicans

Kansas Democrats upbeat about governor’s race

Democrats like their chances versus Brownback

School finance: School litigation history

Act by July 1 on school funding or court could, Kansas AG says

Brownback says now not time to expand Medicaid
State senator cuts $2 million proposal for research at KU; fellow lawmaker suggests removal is a vendetta
Senate budget committee says ‘no’ to funding for new Med Center building

KU warns of accreditation issues at medical school, but committee rejects funding initiative

Advocates unhappy with autism bill rewrite

Bill mandates background, credit checks for health site navigators in Kansas

Kansas House bill would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity
Senate passes bill limiting pre-primary party switches
Kansas Senate OKs ‘foster parent bill of rights’

Legislative live-streaming receives broad support

Kansas AG pays $1.03M to defend anti-abortion laws

Sherrer & Moore: Kansas must change direction on creating jobs

Rest of the story on school finances

State will have to pay on school funding

Expensive and pointless

School funds

Fix funding inequities

Budget cuts placing court at tipping point

Voting rights

Vet hit – Republican obstructionists zero in on nation’s veterans

Two former Lt. Governors blast Brownback tax policies

School ruling
Brownback points to welfare cuts with pride

Another legislative ‘fix’ could endanger voting rights

Chipping away at court structures

Let navigators concentrate on helping

Changing sides: Pre-election switches aren’t evil (but they may be history)

Don’t need election ‘fixes’

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